Criminal Justice Reform

Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center (LSRC)

Inmates participate in the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry program

The Crime Lab and the University of Illinois at Chicago are teaming up with the Illinois Department of Corrections to evaluate a rehabilitative approach to incarceration in Illinois.

Challenge

The United States is home to over one-fifth of the world’s incarcerated individuals, driven by high incarceration and re-incarceration rates. Fifty-five percent of people released from prison in the U.S. return to prison within five years.

Opportunity

The Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center is a prison facility in Illinois that prioritizes education, health access, and humane treatment while individuals are incarcerated. Prior efforts to improve post-release outcomes in the U.S. invested a few thousand dollars per individual for a few months. This effort invests an additional $29,000 annually for several years before an individual’s release. The Crime Lab and the University of Illinois at Chicago are partnering with the Illinois Department of Corrections to conduct a randomized controlled trial of the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center. This facility is at the forefront of prison reform efforts in the U.S., and findings from this evaluation could provide policymakers nationwide with a roadmap for effectively reducing incarceration rates.

Project overview

One of the main goals of prison facilities is to rehabilitate individuals and reduce further justice system involvement. However, 55% of people released from U.S. prisons will re-enter a prison facility within five years.

This pattern is not observed in other developed countries, which experience far lower prison re-entry rates (see Figure 1). Figure 1 also highlights that the U.S. invests far less in its incarcerated populations than other developed countries.

Figure 1

 

Years Active

2017 – present

Project Leads

Ashna Arora

Ashna Arora

Research Director

Ben Feigenberg

Ben Feigenberg

Associate Professor

Miguel Hernandez

Miguel Hernandez

Communications Specialist

Javier Lopez

Javier Lopez

Analytics Manager

Related Resources
Kewanee LSRC Facility Information
Website

Kewanee LSRC Facility Information

Jan 2021
Kewanee OSF Preregistration
Website

Kewanee OSF Preregistration

Aug 2021

This public document provides key details on the Kewanee LSRC evaluation.

The Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center is an Illinois Department of Corrections facility that invests intensively in education, health access, and humane treatment in the years leading up to an individual’s release.

Figure 2

The facility transforms behind-the-wall programming and institutional culture, reorienting every aspect of incarceration towards rehabilitation and treatment. For instance, incarcerated individuals can move freely throughout the facility without being physically escorted from one location to another.

The Kewanee LSRC has been designed to serve individuals who are not low risk, i.e., it focuses exclusively on individuals that are at medium or high risk of recidivating post-release. The facility also includes individuals with serious convictions – 48% of individuals are serving sentences for murder or class X felony convictions.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab and the University of Illinois at Chicago are partnering with the Illinois Department of Corrections to conduct a randomized controlled trial of the Kewanee Life Skills Re-entry Center. This facility is at the forefront of prison reform efforts in the U.S., and findings from this evaluation could provide policymakers nationwide with a roadmap for effectively reducing incarceration rates.